It's been a couple of days now, and my heart remains the heaviest it has been in awhile
On Monday, Nov. 21, just four days before Thanksgiving, some nutcase who was given a license to drive a school bus, crashed said bus into a tree in Chattanooga, Tenn., and killed six people — five of which were elementary schoolchildren.
This young man (who looks like Snoop Dogg's long lost kid) apparently had a few "incidents" on his driving record, including an accident while driving his bus.
As a school bus driver, I know firsthand the responsibility placed on my shoulders every time I turn the key on my big, yellow bus. I know it sounds goofy, but these words are regularly drilled into every bus driver: "Safety first; scheduling second."
Now this young man (and I can't bring myself to say/type his name) has let all bus drivers down. Heck, he has let America down.
We already know Nutcase was speeding, but was the wreck intentional? I certainly hope not, but according to at least one child, before the crash Nutcase asked the students if they were ready to die. Really? REALLY????
Now I'm pissed. If that's true, this guy deserves everything coming to him. I hope he doesn't get the death penalty. Rather, it would be much better if he spent the rest of his life in prison, where his fellow inmates don't take kindly to child killers. That would be a long, agonizing punishment, and I can't think of a better recipient.
Yes, I know we're not supposed to judge. Yes, I know forgiveness is important.
Six people total. Five innocent schoolchildren.
Please pray for Chattanooga. Pray for America.
Photo courtesy of Susan McMullan Eden, who owns a farm near Simpsonville.
One of the favorite pastimes for people in Kentucky is to talk about the weather; i.e. complain about the weather. It's too hot, or too cold, or too windy, or too humid, or too ... well, you get the picture.
But during these past few weeks, as summer winds down, our weather has been nothing short of spectacular. Nearly every day, blue skies and puffy clouds have given way to slightly crisp summer nights.
For the past month or so, most my Facebook friends have been trying to outdo Farmers' Almanac and predict how bad this winter will be. The consensus seems to be — drum roll, please — cold and snowy! Pardon me, but isn't it pretty much cold and snowy every winter? Somewhere, a part-time prognosticator will have predict a hot and muggy winter for me to pay attention.
And yes, in the winter I'll complain that's it's too darned cold and I can't wait for spring, just as I complained about the heat this summer. And the rain. Wow. That was a lot of rain. We should have shipped some out West.
I used to dread snowy weather simply because I drove a small, two-wheel drive pickup. Suffice to say those trucks were less than stellar on slick roads. I now get around in a Jeep. Aside from the fact that I sacrificed some gas money, I couldn't be happier. That thing could climb a tree, I'm sure. In the words of Tara Shaver, BOTS!
The only downside to snow is makeup days. We bus drivers don't like it when the school year spills over into June. But we do what we have to (while complaining, of course).
So, before we bellyache about Kentucky skipping the fall season and going directly to winter, we should remember these past few weeks of sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, a/k/a drones, are making headlines almost daily. People are very afraid of this new technology, and I'm not sure why. We are not out to be high-tech peeping Toms — at least most of us aren't. As with ANY device (car, gun, butter knife, whatever), there will always be someone who misuses it and gives a black eye to an entire industry.
Recently, a Louisville man shot down a device he claimed was photographing his daughter, who was supposedly sunbathing in the back yard. His claim was shot to pieces (pun intended) when the UAV operator show his recorded flight path. He destroyed the shooter's story that the UAV "hovered" at 8 feet above his back yard. The device clearly flew — without hovering — at 200 feet or more. The shooter went to jail.
In another incident that was captured on video, a hobby UAV pilot was flying over an empty field while a girls' soccer game was being played in an adjacent field. One player's dad came over and harassed the pilot, implying that he was a pervert for photographing young girls.
First off, the pilot was not flying over the soccer field. He might have inadvertently gotten the action on camera, but he was not trying. And if he did, so what? It is perfectly legal to photograph people in public places WITHOUT their permission. As a veteran journalist, I know this to be true. Chill, people. I'll even bet there were parents on the sidelines shooting their 35mm digital cameras with long lenses, getting much clearer, identifiable, photos. Why wasn't this dad stopping that?
Then there are the non-news reports of "near misses," where a drone supposedly gets too close to a 747. Yes, there are rules about flying too close to an airport. And yes, there are idiots who violate that. But reports list hundreds of near misses monthly.
One airline pilot has poo-pooed the whole idea, saying that birds strikes are common and more dangerous, yet the media doesn't have a breaking news story every time a jet collides with a goose.
I even watched congressional hearings on the dangers personal drones create for airplanes. One pilot, who was there to testify against UAVs, said, "We can't even see them!" Wait, if you can't see them, how are there hundreds of near-miss reports? This has been blown way out of proportion.
Has anyone discussed the possibilities that UAVs could be used for the good of mankind? Uses include search and rescue, news gathering, fire training, arson investigation, rooftop inspection — the list goes on and on. I even saw a report that a drone carried a rope to a stranded flood victim. He used the rope to be rescued. Imagine that.
The FAA, the great overseers of the skies, is currently trying to develop drone regulations. Their first proposals were so ridiculous it wasn't even funny. They're easing restrictions, but it'll still be too much, I think. We'll see.
For the public, please don't overreact when you see a drone. They will become more common as time goes on. Remember this: When cars were introduced, people were so worried a law was passed that all cars had to have someone running ahead of the car carrying flags to warn all the pedestrians of the deadly machine that followed. I'm glad we got over that!
Let's not try to ban UAVs from the skies because of what MIGHT happen. Someday, someone will strap a bomb to one and fly it into a crowd. That will not be the drone's fault; the terrorists will be to blame. We didn't ban trucks when Timothy McVeigh loaded one with fertilizer and blew up a building in Oklahoma City. We didn't ban airliners when some radical fools flew them into the World Trade Center. We don't ban cars every time some DUI or texter slams head-on into a carload of teenagers. Don't be so quick to ban drones.
They are relatively safe, too. When was the last time you heard of a UAV crashing into a crowd and injuring people? What about a plane? Think about it.
I'm not sure we're ready to deliver pizzas with a drone yet, but we're getting there. Meantime, please try to embrace this new technology. I predict it will lead to your grandchildren flying to work rather than driving.
I had a lively debate on Facebook last night (Feb. 10) after the UK Wildcats pulled out a 2-point win over LSU, keeping their perfect record perfect.
A friend in Madison, Ind., who I respect as a person and as a musician, was dogging UK for what he called the school's "NBA breeding ground." Although he said he wasn't being personal, his comments like, "Screw Kentucky. Screw Calipari," and so forth, sounded pretty personal to me.
He wondered about the players' SAT scores and GPAs. I don't know about SATs, but their GPAs are actually pretty good — 3.129 for the fall semester, which I pointed out with delight to my buddy.
For his comparison to coaching styles, he used none other than Bobby Knight, who, he said, boasted a 100 percent graduation rate for his players. Yes, but Bobby Knight? The coach who threw chairs and struck his players? The coach who had so many fits of anger that IU finally fired him? Was he a winning coach? Yes, definitely. Was he a good coach? Nope.
Truth is, Bobby Knight was from a different era, when there were no one-and-done players — even for UK. Had that trend started a few years earlier, I'm sure there would be some Hoosiers in there, too.
And speaking of Hoosiers, remember the movie? A drunk-turned-high school coach worked to take a team of unlikely players to the state tournament — not to the state academic tournament. They, too, were about winning. Period.
I pointed out to my friend that I, too, don't like the one-and-done mentality, but until the NCAA or NBA changes the rules, I plan to embrace that concept and happily watch UK dominate the game for as long as they can.
Then I thought about our debate that night and the following day. I thought about why kids go to college and what a one-and-done actually accomplishes. College is to train a person for what he or she plans to do for money the rest of his or her life, right? College should put that person on a path to become successful.
The first-year salary for the 30th pick NBA player is $911,400.
I'm probably not going to make as much as most NBA players in my lifetime, so which one of us is more successful?
One could argue that success should be defined by more than dollars. True to an extent, but who's to say that these guys don't have those other qualities by which success is measured? And they're rich.
The bottom line is we all work to earn money to buy things. If you had unlimited finances, would you go to your job every day? I'd travel, enjoy my hobbies, give generously to my church and other charities of my choice, and enjoy life as an independently wealthy man.
I'm 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and 59 years old. I don't hear the NBA knocking on my door. I'll be wealthy if I win the lottery, but until then, I'll keep plugging every day and making the best of my many, many blessings.
And for now, GO CATS! Here's to 40-0, no matter what they think across the river.
Note: This column was published in The Sentinel-News in the early 2000s, when I was editor, and is re-published in its entirety, with permission.
Good news, Kentucky. It looks like Smiley Joe will soon be but a memory, a moment of sheer embarrassment for our otherwise beautiful state.
Yes, the world's dumbest license plate is expected be put to rest, alongside its 80s counterpart, that silly song that gets stuck in the prison of your brain: "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Bet you're singing it to yourself right now.
The Kentucky House last night was scheduled to hear HB 426, which would allow the state Transportation Cabinet to update license plates when it sees fit, rather than the current five-year schedule. I hope it passes and that the cabinet officials see fit very soon to change the plate.
The measure was approved twice and recommended for passage in the full House. Of course, then the Senate has to consider it and the governor has to sign it.
Commerce Secretary Jim Host didn't pull any punches in talking about the House bill.
"The main purpose of this bill is to get rid of the smiley face," he said.
Bravo. Somebody finally cut to the chase. Of course, it's easy to do when the vast majority is behind you.
I actually bought a pickup truck so I wouldn't have to have the plate. OK, that's a stretch of the truth, but a happy coincidence.
Somewhere, however, is a not-so-silent minority. Some people actually like the license plate.
In 2003, much to the chagrin of most Kentuckians, the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association named the ol' smiley face the best new plate in the entire country. It clawed its way past Maine's lobster plate by a single vote, which says a lot about the voting process itself.
From ALPCA's Web site: "While some Kentuckians raised an eyebrow at the selection, ALPCA members said they appreciated the distinctive, clear lettering, the bold graphic and the sharp colors -- attributes that helped the Kentucky plate stand out from the crowd."
Stand out indeed. That's like putting Bozo the Clown among a crowd of funeral directors and wondering why he stands out.
Joe's proposed replacement features the new state logo, "Unbridled Spirit," and fades vertically from white to blue. It has already received approval from the Transportation Cabinet and the Department of Corrections, which manufactures the plates (and you thought that was an urban legend). If approved, the plates would begin production in July.
I can't wait. For now, I'll give the goofy grin its own sendoff. In the words of legend Hank Williams: "Goodbye Joe, we gotta go, me oh my oh ..."
Note: This column was published in The Sentinel-News in the early 2000s, when I was editor, and is re-published in its entirety with permission.
While writing about a case of small-town corruption several years back, a police officer told me, "[A mess] don't stink until you stir it." My reply, of which I'm quite proud, was, "But if it doesn't stink, nobody cleans it up."
That's why I do what I do. I don't enjoy stirring things up nearly as much as most people think. Sometimes, I admit, it brings a smile to my face knowing that blatant corruption has been brought to light and that sleazy people got their due. But for the most part, I'm distressed by the nonsense.
With all that said, I revisit a semi-controversial subject not because it's particularly newsworthy, but it's just funny.
Back on July 4, a man from Louisville caused quite a stir himself when he announced he would participate in the Independence Day parade in Mount Eden. Louisvillian James Kennedy, who billed himself as the grand dragon of the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan in Kentucky, said he and his entourage would march with the veterans and Boy Scouts and kids on bicycles and promote the cause of the Klan. He also courageously vowed to fight anyone who dared to photograph any member of his group. His words and actions brought in the Louisville media and overshadowed the whole thing.
But now we've heard from the big boy, Imperial Wizard Barry E. Black, from the home office, so to speak, of the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Inc. (they're incorporated?) in Johnstown, Pa.
As of July 10, Kennedy and his associate, David King, have been banished from the Klan!
"These gentlemen have disrespected there (sic) offices and the organization by committing acts that are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Black's press release read.
Here are my questions: Just how bad does one have to be to get kicked out of the Ku Klux Klan? What could possibly be considered "unacceptable" by clowns who cover their faces in shame as they go about their "work"? Just where does the Klan draw that line of decency?
I'm guessing that Kennedy will move on to other equally noble endeavors, like tripping little old ladies in the grocery store.
Note: This column is one of which I'm particularly proud. It was published in The Sentinel-News in the early 2000s, when I was editor, and is re-published in its entirety with permission.
Whether it's one's view of the basketball court or one's view of life, the key word is perspective.
As a youth league basketball referee in Simpsonville, I'm very aware of perspectives. The game looks entirely different on the floor than it does in the stands. The guys in striped shirts see things that the fans and coaches don't. At the same time, fans and coaches see things that we don't, and they are quick to point them out.
We make good calls; we make bad calls. It happens. Get over it.
But I'm not using any more ink to justify my refereeing skills. Without question, all us whistleblowers do our best.
Instead, I'll use this space to relate something that happened on the basketball court one cold Saturday morning in January. It's pure, it's simple, and it's a lesson we could all do well to remember.
It's where that life perspective thing comes in.
First, a little background. At Simpsonville Parks & Recreation Youth League, like leagues in Shelbyville and around the nation, kids are learning how to play basketball. The youngest in Simpsonville are 4, 5 and 6 years old, and the oldest players are in middle school.
At the beginning of the season, the majority of the youngest boys and girls were true novices. Most lacked the basic skills of the game.
But by mid-season, their comprehension of basketball, their motor skills and their athletic abilities are remarkably improved. They can dribble, shoot, run plays and defend the goal. For all that, credit goes to the coaches and parents.
But that's still not my point.
A few weeks ago, two players in the 10- to 12-year-old group put the game into perspective; I just wish I'd paid closer attention to know which players were involved.
Their team was down by just three points with about a minute left in the game. As I handed the ball to one of them to put it into play, his words to his teammate were priceless.
"Forget the score," he quietly said. "Let's just have fun." His teammate smiled and nodded.
I don't remember who won that game, but as the player who started the clock with his inbounds pass knows, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Thank you coach, whoever you are.
On one hand, I'm glad my credit card company is looking out for me. The other hand is a problem.
Yesterday, Julie stopped in a local store to buy that ever-important cat food. An empty cat food bowl is an actual crisis at our house. Upon trying to pay, our Visa card was denied. What gives?
Turns out I was the culprit: Thursday morning, as I was headed for the Li ... I mean, Jubilee Kick-Off Breakfast, my super smart Jeep informed me that I had a slightly low tire. My left rear tire was at 28 psi, and it should have been 34 psi. Since it was too early to stop by Doug's Tires, I pulled in at a local gas station/food store/restaurant/barber shop — OK, not a barber shop — to replenish my air supply. That six pounds of air was going to cost me $1, or just under 17 cents a pound. Really? For air? Why couldn't I just grab some from, well, the air, and stuff it in there? I needed air and was in a bit of a hurry. Finding no quarters in my pockets, I took the second option: credit.
Swiping my credit card for a dollar's worth of air set in motion a plethora of events that shut down our ability to buy anything on credit. I'm sure the Pentagon was also notified.
It turns out that certain states are deemed by the banks to have a high number of credit card fraud, so they are flagged and one simply cannot do credit card business in those states, apparently. My $1 I had foolishly spent on air was sent to New Jersey for processing. You guessed it, New Jersey is "one of those states."
And this is not the first time this has happened to me. I tried to buy something in California on my business credit card recently and the sale would not go through because California also falls into the high-fraud category. I had to call the bank and put California on my "approved" list before I could buy anything there. I really do buy locally whenever possible, but sometimes it's not possible. But wait, the air I bought was a local purchase! Hmmmm ....
The lists of naughty states varies by source. Yahoo Finance, for example, ranks New Jersey at No. 10. The remainder of their top 10, from 9 to 1, are: Washington, Georgia, Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, and Florida. It's interesting to me that California is conspicuously missing from the list. Credit.com notes that Kentucky is gaining ground in the credit card fraud business. Yipee.
I don't appreciate my banks telling me which states in which I can or can't do business. When I need to buy something, I need to buy it and not deal with this hassle. But I also don't appreciate having my identity stolen. That happened once, in a local restaurant that is no longer operating here, and the cleanup from that fraud was not fun. It's also interesting that all of my so-called fraud cases or close calls began right here in town.
Bottom line? Don't restrict my purchases. My banks should be able to track my buying habits (which is another problem I can't control) and know that I'm not likely to be purchasing sex toys in Connecticut, but I just might buy photo equipment from an online store in California. Heck, even Kroger knows me better than I do.
In the meantime, does anybody need some air? I have an 8-ounce bottle of it I'd love to sell for a good price.
They're as predictable as chickweed, as common as crabgrass, and as irritating as ragweed. Their growing season peaks at the end of June, and by July 7 they'll be gone as if killed off as if by a giant, freak frost.
"They" are are not annual plants, but annual fireworks tents, and they have popped up on nearly every Shelbyville corner, in most of the retail parking lots, and anywhere there's an open area bigger than 6x6. On a trip across town on this Friday morning from the Magic Studio to a large box store (only because no other retailer had what I needed) I counted five tents full of fireworks. Some were just a bottle rocket away from another.
I like fireworks as much as the next guy, but ever since I set the woods on fire with a flying firecracker many years ago, I am super careful. Actually, that was my second bad experience with exploding devices. When I was about 7, I think, I was playing with firecrackers, lighting them and tossing them. You know where this is going. I lit one, cocked my arm for the throw, then POW! It went off in my hand. Two days later, when the feeling returned to my fingers (yes, I still have all 10), I was able to laugh it off.
These days, I leave the fireworks the the professionals — that way I get to keep my digits.
This year's Fourth of July celebration — Shake the Lake — takes place Friday, July 4 at Clear Creek Park. Among other entertainment, there will be food, a yard sale, vendors, a tethered hot air balloon ride, and music by Killin’ Time Band and Eddie Barber at starting at 6. See you there!
Interactive television hurdled to a new level Sunday night, and although it doesn't seem to be getting the attention it should, I think it changes the game forever.
Television has tried to be interactive for years, and it seems the trailblazers for this innovation are the music competition shows. American Idol kick-started it all by allowing you to submit text votes — a real innovation at the time — for your favorite singer. Other programmers allowed Twitter commentary in semi-real time.
But on Sunday night, ABC launched Rising Star, another singing duel that promises superstardom to some unknown. Here's the kicker: in an obvious marketing ploy, the network has developed an app so you and I can play along with real-time voting. Shamelessly admitting the idea plays on our need for instant gratification, ABC lets us give a virtual thumbs up or down — while the singer is still on stage. That beats the heck out of having to wait until after the show to vote!
I know, it's all a little bit hokey — unless you're Carrie Underwood or one of the few who were actually discovered on American Idol. Side note: I was watching the night Carrie's prerecorded audition aired. After her song, I said, "There's your next American Idol." Not bad, eh?
Now that real-time interactive TV is here via a computer app, I wonder what comes next — movies which you choose the outcome? Game shows with at-home contestants? The possibilities are endless and I can't wait to see what happens.
Of the singing shows, I like The Voice best — not only because Blake Shelton is such an entertainer, but also because they do it right. The judges don't get to see the contestants at first, so their opinions are based solely on the contestants' voices. Too often, I think, judges are consciously or subconsciously swayed by a person's looks — both positively and negatively. Also on The Voice, the judges actually get to judge for the longest amount of time. It's a mistake to turn the judging over to the viewers, who, I think, tend to vote for the cutest boy rather than the one with true singing talent. Too often the best singer (in my opinion) gets booted and the wrong contestant wins. Tessanne Chinn should have been the Season 6 winner! She was clearly the singing talent in that group.
Maybe they'll let me judge next year — from the comfort of home, of course.
Writer James Mulcahy
spent 35 years as a newspaper journalist at small and large papers. He is currently a freelance photographer/writer/graphics designer, and he drives a school bus.